Shortly after purchasing Twitter, Elon Musk decided to reinstate Trump’s account. To clarify, the decision wasn’t Musk’s alone. Musk used Twitter to tweet out a poll for platform users to vote. The poll received about 15 million votes, 52% in favor of Trump’s return. However, it makes me wonder how many of those 15 million votes were from actual people.
Some people use chatbots and fake accounts to boost ratings and popularity on social media. Sometimes people even purchase fake followers to make themselves seem more famous than they really are. Was this taken into account when tabulating the results of the poll? And why are platform users making this important decision anyway?
The social media platform, in this case Twitter, is responsible for determining what sort of content can be tweeted and disseminated. In the last few years, Twitter made some moves to regulate content or restrict certain types of information on the platform. Trump’s removal from Twitter, following the events of January 6, 2021, is one result of these efforts.
However, Trump’s recent reinstatement is one example, of many, illustrating how social media companies like to have it both ways. Social Media platforms are fond of promoting themselves as a place for free speech, without any regard to what that actually means. On the other hand, they also love to use algorithms to control what kind of content gets promoted and circulated.
Based on my understanding, Musk’s idea is to allow anybody to tweet anything. Then use algorithms and other means, to restrict who actually gets to see inflammatory, or discriminatory, content. Is there a difference between telling a user they can’t post certain things? Or allowing them to post it and then keeping it hidden?
Content is available with the latter scenario for someone to find it. Or retweet it. Or favorite it. All of which help to disseminate that content. Whereas if the platform bans certain kinds of content in the first place, this can help to keep it from spreading. Or at least not on that platform. When one platform restricts content, users often use a different outlet. Sometimes if can even be worse when these types of users are “Lurking in the Dark Web.”
I’m not looking forward to hearing about Trump’s tweets again. Though it will probably be different now that he’s not the president.